Friday, May 18, 2012


If you have ever milked a cow by hand, this poem may bring back a few memories.

                                      by Donald Rhody

I think it must no longer be common –
It was the last generation’s chore,
But what has been gained in efficiency
Was taken from what I value more.

My growing up years were as a farm-boy.
Ours – a simple and small dairy farm.
But what our farm lacked in proficiency
Was gained with the compensation of charm.

I think it must no longer be common –
A gift as rare as one could endow.
With a bucket as one’s only machinery
To sit quietly milking a cow.

The chore is one of complete contentment –
Squirting warm, foamy milk in a pail.
And the cow, slowly munching her greenery,
Only rarely switches you with her tail.

The barn cats have returned from their hunting.
They’ve grown tired of their diet of mice.
So they busy themselves with explaining
That a warm squirt of milk would be nice.

And I am more than glad to oblige them –
They open their mouths and I take aim.
Our farm dog is patient – not complaining.
He considers their behavior a shame.

The dog knows that when chore time is finished
I pour some milk in the old iron griddle.
And some days he is even persuaded
To let those begging cats have a little.

And then I must also feed the new calf
That was born the middle of last week.
The mother could barely be dissuaded
To let me bring the calf home from the creek.

Now I am teaching the new calf to drink.
For the first week she nursed from the cow.
But small calves jump into maturity,
And before long she’ll eat hay from the mow.

My cow with her calf, the dog and the cats,
All may sometimes long for a life in the wild.
But our barn offers them security –
A motherly barn, who cares for her child.

Our barn was a home of nourishment –
Like an extension of the mother’s womb.
Much different than modern factory-farms,
Which seem more like precursors to the tomb.

That which was once entirely common,
Has in these days become all but dead.
And despite my growing sense of alarm
We persist with the lifeless instead.

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